North Carolina closes out its second spring under coach Larry Fedora on Saturday (3 p.m., ESPN3). I had a chance to catch up with quarterback Bryn Renner this week to talk about the progress the offense has made.
Here is Part I of our interview, which focuses on key improvements, and the revamped offensive line.
Coach Larry Fedora has said he feels the offense is light years ahead of where you were a year ago. Where do you feel you guys are as spring practice comes to a close?
Bryn Renner: I think it’s night and day. The atmosphere is a lot more comfortable. Last year was pretty different as far as learning a whole new system we weren’t used to. Getting used to a whole new coaching staff, that was big for us. The transition that we made at the end of the season last year and having a great offseason, I think it really paid off. This spring, we’ve made a ton of improvements because of the knowledge of knowing what to do and where to go.
In terms of the improvements, can you pinpoint a few things?
BR: I’d probably say offensively, we have made a lot of improvements replacing the three offensive linemen we lost. I think they’ve done a great job stepping in and knowing the roles they need to fill. Then the running back position, A.J. [Blue] and Romar [Morris] have stepped up and taken the role of replacing one of the best running backs in the country.
The offensive line obviously is so critical to any team. You lost an All-American in Jonathan Cooper. So when you say the offensive line is coming along, tell me more about how are the three new guys doing.
BR: Replacing those guys is going to be tough. They had great careers here, Kiaro Holts at right tackle, Caleb Peterson at left guard and then Landon Turner at right guard, they’ve done a great job of learning the playbook and feeding off the relationships they had with those three guys, the close bond in the linemen room. The studied their film and understood their role of how to play the position. It’s really big they could learn from three guys like that and I think they’re going to be great for us this year.
Caleb is a redshirt freshman, so what is it going to be like for him having no playing experience and then taking over for Cooper?
BR: I think the kid’s personality is he wants to be the best and he works really hard. He’s always in the film room studying. Having that relationship with Coop is going to be huge. Coop’s always around the stadium still and helping out with him in practice. The biggest thing for Caleb is having James Hurst on his left side, one of the best tackles in the country. He’s started for four years, and really understands the game. James is the best I’ve ever seen as far as knowing what to do and where to be. Coop will even tell you that, having James next to him really helped out. He’s almost thinking for two out there and it’s going to be a big luxury to have James next to him all year.
That’s got to be a huge factor for you, especially considering that’s your blind side.
BR: I’ve been blessed with the offensive line play throughout my career here, just having one of the top offensive linemen almost every year, and to have James coming back and Russell Bodine up front, this will be our third year together so it’s good to have those guys that can be on the same page with you out there.
Stay tuned for Part II, when we discuss Blue and Morris, the receiving group and the big test looming to open the season.